DevOps and the Lean enterprise

DevOps and Lean principles are complementary. While DevOps was born in the world of software, it embraces many aspects of Lean, which began as a way of streamlining manufacturing processes.

Six basic Lean principles you can use today

Here are some Lean principles that you will want to incorporate into your DevOps practice, if you're not already doing them.

  • Eliminate waste. In the spirit of constant improvement, always look for ways to eliminate waste. (In Lean, waste is called muda, which is a Japanese word. Many Lean concepts began at Toyota.) Constantly evaluate your process and ask yourself, "What am I doing that I don't need to do?"
  • Prefer pull systems to push systems. A pull system is driven by customer need as opposed to a push system, which uses top-down planning. Align your process and resources with market demand.
  • Practice kaizen, or continuous improvement. DevOps practitioners are always examing their process and trying to make it better.
  • Practice kaikaku. Kaikaku means radical change. There are times when continuous improvement (kaizen) isn't enough and you need disruption.
  • Work in small batches. Rather than spending months developing a product and then releasing it, with no input from your customers, try releasing in small iterations, where each iteration represents a minimum viable product. With each iteration, you can incorporate feedback from your audience so that you know you are satisfying market demand.
  • Embrace failure. Both DevOps and Lean look at failure not as an exceptional event but as a normal one. When you release iteratively and are constantly experimenting and incorporating feedback into your product, failure is to be expected and is an opportunity to learn about what works and what doesn't.


This article discusses the relationship between DevOps and Lean principles. It is based on Adam Jacob's talk, Chef Style DevOps Kungfu, delivered at ChefConf 2015.

Learn more

There are many books and articles about Lean principles. One is Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale by Jez Humble, Joanne Molesky, & Barry O'Reilly.

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